Rockabilly in the 80s: Marc Rondeau
Speaker: Marc Rondeau.
Running time: 7 minutes
[0:08] For me, getting involved in the 50s or the rockabilly scene, I suppose, started from about the age of 10 years of age. I instantly liked the music that my mother had on 45, which included Elvis, Eddy Cochrane, Bill Haley, Jean Vincent, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, and for some reason I just instantly took a liking to that style of music.
[0:37] From there, I grew into a teenager still liking that style of music and then discovered this fantastic scene of 50s rock and roll or rockabilly. It just grew from there. The rockabilly scene here seemed to have a large influence from the UK, in particular. In the 80s, when cults were really at their peak… and really it started in London. A lot of guys and girls who would travel overseas for a little while would come back and bring back that style with them.
[1:12] It grew from there. And each city in Australia had its own rockabilly scene, that was big and fairly powerful and was an alternative to the lame‑ass music that was really around at the time. We use to go to places like the Leichhardt Hotel and go and see the Bobcats or the Wildcat Tamers, both great inner‑west bands that played some really, really good rockabilly music.
[1:41] Also we use to places in the early 80s called the All Nations Club and we’d see bands like the Mighty Guys who actually made it in the charts in Australia. In the mid 80s, we’d go to places like Orwells, up at Kings Cross that always had a regular night there. And of course the Lansdowne Hotel which was the rock house, or the jump and jive room.
[2:04] For quite a few years there, there was a guy called Rick Stone who ran the jump and jive room and we’d have rockabilly there, well, nearly five nights a week. It was probably one of the biggest clubs at the time. You’d always get around 400 to 500 people at these clubs, which would give it a really good vibe, a really good atmosphere. And of course with the 50s dancing, it just looked pretty spectacular on the dance floor.
[2:35] Obviously we’ve got our own specific style of dancing, and it’s jiving. Some people might call it old‑style dancing, but it’s not. What it is – it’s real dancing where you actually hold your partner, where you touch your partner and you dance in a way that’s visually pleasurable, and also entertaining and fun as well. Most people who get involved in the scene will learn how to dance and, it’s not difficult. It just takes a bit of practice. At a gig you’ll always have a packed dance floor. Always.
[3:12] In the early 80s, it really started off in the late 70s, I suppose, where a lot of the sub‑cultures like the Mods and the Rockers or the Teddy Boys and the Skinhead and the Punks and the Rude Boys, all sort of hung around the same sort of areas in the inner city, like the Sussex Hotel, or the Civic Hotel, or the Vulcan Hotel, or any of those sorts of places. You’d always get a mixture of the sub‑cultures. And there were always guys and girls that knew each other, and maybe get off into their own sort of scene.
[3:47] Even though there were some tough boys in the scene, for us it was for enjoyment; for us it was just fun. We’d go out there and get blind drunk. See a fantastic band and just have a ball until 5 o’clock in the morning.
[4:02] As far as the rockabilly scene is concerned, with the guys in particular I suppose, cars are a huge thing. Cars and motorbikes. You’re always after either an American 50s car, or a hotrod, or an old British bike, or an old Harley Davidson. In my lifetime, I’ve owned old Holdens, old Chevys. I’m in the middle of building a Cafe Racer motorbike, and they’re the sort of things that people gravitate towards. A lot of guys work on their own cars.
[4:36] That’s part of it, as well, you know? You build your own car, or you restore your own car, or you repair your own car, and that’s all part of the fun as well.
[4:47] The type of clothes that I first started getting into was ‑ I started hanging out with the Teddy Boys. And the Teddy Boys, I suppose, were the equivalent of the Skinheads of the 50s. They were tough kids, liked to drink, liked to party hard, liked to get into fights, liked to get into trouble. And we’d always wear drape jackets, and drain‑pipe pants, and brothel creeper shoes, and hang around the city, and usually get into some sort of trouble.
[5:17] As I grew older, I started to get involved more in the rockabilly side of things where the clothes were very American style. Boxed jackets, gabardine jackets, pegged pants, shirts that were original 1950s style, bowling type shirts, but also leather jackets, too, for the rockers. The outfit of mine on display is basically denim, with a cut‑off jacket over the top and some blue suede shoes.
[5:52] Now during the day, a lot of the Teddy Boys used to just wear denim. It was easy. It was cool‑looking and it was practical. You didn’t have to worry too much about getting dirty or looking after it. Night-times was a different thing though – at night-times you always wore your drape jacket and your good clothes.
[6:13] The girls in the rockabilly scene, or the women in the rockabilly scene, had their own particular styles. They weren’t just a handbag, they were part of the scene. They had the really cool 50s look. They had the great hair. They had the great clothes. We’re all looking for a partner I suppose, at one stage or another, and the girls are as well. They’re looking for a guy with greasy hair, maybe a tattoo, and a beaten‑up old car.
[6:44] And we’re looking for beautiful bombshell, or a girl with a really cute dress. They have their role, we have our role. I suppose it’s nature.